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Earthquake safety messages

This Bulletin gives some general guidance to consumers on how to approach electrical and gas safety while recovery work is going on following the Canterbury earthquake. It supplements, and does not supersede specific safety advice given by other agencies.

This Bulletin also gives advice to electricians, and those responsible for carrying out electrical work during this period, on how to interpret the safety regime where strict compliance with prescriptive standards may hinder recovery or restoration efforts.

 

Power lines

  • If you come across power lines on the ground, treat all of these as live.  Keep well away from them.

 

Gas consumers

  • If your house has been damaged and you need to leave, turn the gas off at the meter or, if you have cylinder gas, at the cylinder.
  • Never use your appliances if the cylinder supplying gas to them has toppled over or is in a horizontal position.  Restore the cylinder to an upright position and secure it in place.
  • The gas reticulation system in Christchurch City was turned off for your safety. Gas supply companies have started retesting and re-commissioning the gas reticulation system. Ensure they have accessed and checked your gas installation and have turned on or authorised you to turn on your gas installation before attempting to start using gas.
  • To avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, outdoor appliances such as patio heaters, camping cookers and barbecues should not be used indoors.  Cooking appliances should not be used for heating for the same reason.
  • Your gas piping may have been damaged due to the earthquake.  Get it tested by a licensed gas worker if you smell gas around the house.
  • If you note abnormal flame or smell of gas turn the gas off at the meter or cylinder and call your gas supplier.
  • If you smell gas anywhere outside your house contact emergency services and your local gas supplier. 

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Electricity consumers

Given the likelihood of damaged wiring, consumers should take extra care when using electricity.

  • If you lose your supply of power, turn off any appliances (such as your oven or heaters) that might be a danger when the power is restored.
  • The main switch will isolate the entire electrical installation and should be used where extensive damage or exposed wiring is present. However, the main switch should never be relied upon for complete safety.
  • Always treat exposed wires with care.  Remember that turning off at the main switch does not mean that the wires feeding power to the house will be safe.
  • Where only part of a house is damaged, turning off the particular circuit breakers (or removing the fuses) supplying any circuits that are known to be damaged, will ensure that some supply remains available.  Seek advice from suitably qualified persons such as electricians or inspectors as soon as you can.
  • Take extra care wherever water is present.
  • Always unplug any damaged appliances. 
  • If circuit breakers trip or fuses blow, this is a warning that something is wrong and qualified advice should be obtained and the circuit left off.
  • If you receive any “tingles” when touching electrical appliances or water taps, turn off the main switch immediately and seek assistance from a qualified person.
  • Remember to be watchful of children near electrical equipment.

 

Recovery wiring

Energy Safety formally advises that any Prescribed Electrical Work performed by licensed workers for restoring supplies of electricity only needs to comply with the essential safety requirements of the Electricity (Safety) Regulations 2010 (‘the Regulations’).  This applies to any installation or supply system, or any part of any installation or supply system, damaged as a consequence of earthquakes.

Noting the importance of electricity to maintain utility services and a safe and secure public environment, the emphasis should be on restoring supply in a fundamentally safe way.  Strict compliance with the technically prescriptive rules is not required.  However, remember to verify the integrity of the Main Earth.

Where considered necessary, suitable safety signage should be employed.

Documentation should be completed as soon as practicable after the lifting of the state of emergency for any electrical work carried out during the emergency that remains operational after the state of emergency is lifted.

 

Ongoing electrical work

Electrical workers are reminded of two parts of the Electrical Safety Regulatory regime that will be particularly relevant when repairing homes and buildings damaged in the earthquake:

  1. The Regulations do not require that repairs bring existing wiring up to the Standards applying to new installations.  Wherever practicable however, some upgrading is recommended if the repairs involve switchboard replacement or substantial repairs in any of the following three aspects:
  • Re-wirable fuses replaced with circuit breakers,
  • RCDs installed on circuits supplying socket outlets in damp areas such as laundries or kitchens, in children’s bedrooms and socket outlets in garages.
  • Where main earthing conductors are replaced, they should be terminated on the installation’s earth bar if one is installed.

Unsafe old wiring and fittings are however required to be replaced with suitable replacements.

 

  1. Certification (and therefore inspection where relevant) is not required for:
  • The repair or replacement of a faulty or damaged conductor.
  • The replacement of a fuse carrier with a circuit breaker.
  • The replacement of any fitting with a fitting of an appropriate size, type, and rating for the electrical circuit.

In every case, the main earth should be verified, and if necessary, replaced.

 

Last updated 12 February 2015
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